I first met brea hutchison two years ago at an Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centre membership meeting. I was representing Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in my new directing role, and brea had recently been hired as Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s new Executive Director. Immediately I understood, from her ideas and her experience, that brea was bringing important, unique perspectives to our province.
This International Women’s Day – on Sunday, March 8, 2020 – brea will be joining the annual community gathering at Seeds of Change in Peterborough as our keynote speaker. This year’s theme is “Together We Rise,” and for brea, this theme is personal.
She is excited about our Solidarity March up George Street from the corner of King Street at 1:30 p.m. Participants are welcome to bring signs and allies to support International Women’s Day and march together to the event. Doors open for the event at 2:30 with refreshments and a community art project and exhibit. The program will begin with local leaders sharing their vision of Rising Together leading to brea’s call to action.
An alumna of Trent University, brea is no stranger to Peterborough-Nogojiwanong. brea is a mixed-race Indigenous trans woman who hails from the Haldimand Tract. Her passions have taken her from anti-war organizing, advocating for housing cooperatives to building and contributing to movements for environmental and climate justice, and to gender equity and an end to gender based violence.
“Ultimately,” says brea. “We need to take up the use of our imagination to dream ambitious and other worldly goals, like a world free from rape.”
In speaking with brea at a recent Executive Directors’ Leadership Retreat, we discussed topics such as allyship to environmental justice, support for survivors of sexual violence in today’s political climate, and solidarity in the women’s movement.
LC: When we talk about emergence strategies, we describe the ways in which we can dig deep together to emerge in solidarity. What are the ways in which you have experienced solidarity in a social justice movement that resulted in successful action?
bh: Solidarity – such a powerful feeling that I am so hopeless at finding words for.
I remember taking the East Bank bus home in my first or second year at Trent and just this horrible transphobe was getting all up in my business. I was sitting in the seat and he was sort of lording over me ranting about why I was wrong or something.
This nice individual, who I didn’t know, nor ever met again, saw me and my discomfort and took action. This stranger just began taking up space, being awkwardly close to the transphobe, talking awkwardly about some pin on his pack. He was trying to take the heat off me onto himself, while ensuring I wasn’t centred in his interaction.
For such a simple response in such a otherwise forgettable bus ride to me is a core of solidarity. That act taught me that (some) folks will stand up for trans people. Some folks, will put themselves on the line. I think this story is just a single piece of a much bigger conversation about solidarity.
LC: We share similar values of Intersectional Feminism, but we come to embrace this ideal from different identities; I, as a first generation white settler. What do you believe is the ‘super power’ of an intersectional feminist analysis?
bh: To me, the super power of an intersectional analysis is all about being able to see the same problem from a plethora of standpoints. By building a movement that not only welcomes folks from across our communities, one that honours our stories and experiences, and we create space together, we gain the ability to see problems more robustly and imagine more powerful solutions.
When we take the opposite approach, when we start building spaces that are welcoming to other standpoints, our ability to see, engage, and solve problems become limited.
Now of course, the question is how do we build those movements and spaces?
LC: This year’s International Women’s Day theme locally is “Together We Rise.” Can you give us a taste of what this theme means to you? Do you have a call to action you want to share?
bh: So, full disclosure: I’ve still been finalizing my theme for what I am hoping to speak to. I’ve got a pretty nifty idea, but there is still a bit of refining at work. So, I love to bake, and when I first heard the theme of “Together We Rise” I thought baking, and about how this riot 110 years ago was all for bread – and later roses. So my doodles and notes on scrap paper have all been hopeless attempts at baking, bread, and yeast puns.
My call to action is to ask folks to move past ‘spectacle’. Building a movement around the idea of being seen, heard, and felt has been really powerful for us but we can’t stop here. I would ask that we move past spectacle and move onto organizing that focuses on relationships.
We look forward to seeing everyone at this annual community gathering for International Women’s Day and speaking more deeply about how Together We Rise.
Lisa Clarke is the Executive Director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC).